Aoraki/Mt Cook village
Christchurch – easily accessible via direct flights from all over Australia, and just three hours from the Eastern Seaboard – is the gateway to the South Island's natural delights. Here are some of the top day trips you can take from Christchurch into the Mount Cook Mackenzie area.
In Aoraki/Mt Cook, turquoise lakes, snow-capped peaks and New Zealand’s biggest mountain await. The Mackenzie region west of Christchurch is a haven for those with a spirit of adventure. Experience clear starry nights in the world’s largest Dark Sky reserve, and a multitude of other breathtaking landscapes.
4 hours from Christchurch – 323 km
Home to New Zealand’s tallest mountain (Aoraki Mt Cook) and longest glacier (Tasman Glacier), this national park is a bona fide outdoor playground. It has some of the best mountaineering in Australasia, but a number of easy alpine walks cater to the less intrepid too. Keep an eye out for kea, the famously cheeky mountain parrot – it’s all part of the fun. Coming in spring or summer? Look for the Mt Cook lily, the largest buttercup in the world.
At the foot of the mountain, beside scenic Lake Pukaki, sits Mt Cook village, the starting point for exploration. You’re guaranteed awe-inspiring views if you opt for a scenic flight over the snowy peaks. Encounters with the mighty Tasman glacier can be had by boat, heli-hiking or even skiing.
3 hours 15 mins from Christchurch – 243 km
Boasting some of the most dazzling night skies in the world, Lake Tekapo draws visitors from all over. You’ll be amazed at what you can see with the naked eye – it’s not for nothing that Tekapo is part of an international Dark Sky Reserve, the largest of its type anywhere in the world. Come in winter and you might catch the Aurora Australis. There’s an observatory atop Mt John overlooking the lake and day and night tours of the observatory are available through Earth and Sky Tours.
3 hours 30 mins from Christchurch – 290 km
The Mackenzie region’s reputation for cycling and mountain biking is growing fast, thanks in no small part to the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. Beginning in the Southern Alps, descending from Aoraki/Mt Cook through farmland and continuing for 300km to Oamaru on the east coast, this trail showcases some of New Zealand’s most unique landscapes. There are eight different sections – you can ride as few or as many parts as you like; the entire trail takes about 6 days. Highlights include the Ohau mountain ranges, Lake Pukaki, Maori rock art and the so-called Elephant Rocks.